Studying theology for ordained ministry
"No one can love a thing that is quite unknown." Augustine, De Trinitate, X.1.i
It is our hope in all our teaching at Ridley Hall that together we would always be learning more about God and each other and the whole world God has made, so that we might love God, and our neighbour, and all of creation more and more fully.
Click on a heading below to find out more about some of the subjects ordinands cover during their training.
- Biblical Studies
Our study of the Bible at Ridley aims to prepare people for a lifetime of mining the riches of Scripture – the essential foundation for fruitful preaching and teaching. We encourage putting the text in its historical and canonical context, paying close attention to the text, and relating the message to the great truths of the faith, and engaging pressing contemporary cultural and social concerns biblically.
You will have opportunity to learn the original languages of the Bible, and the rich library resources in Cambridge provide access to the wisdom and insight of the great Christian interpreters of the past and the present. Our aim is to equip you with a thorough biblical framework for your life and ministry.
- Old Testament
The Old Testament lies at the heart of the Christian faith. In it, we find the great foundational truths that can make us “wise unto salvation” (2 Tim 3:14–4:2). Above all, the Old Testament was the Bible of Jesus, and it was the Old Testament that Jesus used to explain his identity and mission to his disciples. The study of the Old Testament, therefore, forms an essential part of the curriculum at Ridley.
Faithful interpretation of the Old Testament requires an in-depth understanding of its key theological themes, literary genres, conventions, and styles, as well as the wider scriptural context. But the Old Testament often feels like foreign territory. That is why you will also learn to draw on insights into the historical, cultural, and social context of the Old Testament in order to gain a richer and more complete appreciation of the texts.
Our courses will lead you through detailed introductions to the writings of the Old Testament and teach you the exegetical tools you need for teaching and preaching. You will also be introduced to some of the fundamental issues in biblical interpretation. Our goal is that students are able to respect the meaning of the text in its scriptural context, but also imaginatively relate it to the Christian life today.
- New Testament
The New Testament is fundamental and formative for the Christian faith. In it we hear apostolic testimony to the story of the coming of Jesus Christ to liberate God's world and his people from bondage to sin, death and decay.
Through narratives, letters and apocalypse it reveals the gracious love of God, the redemptive work of the Son, and the life-giving power of the Spirit.
In our introductory study of the New Testament we build a foundation, looking carefully at:
- The four gospels and their distinctive emphases
- The identity and mission of Jesus in his historical context
- How the letters of Paul and others in the NT can give us insight into faithful discipleship today
In their second or third year, students study individual books of the New Testament in detail, learning to listen more closely to the Scriptures, to think more clearly, and to express its essential message. Our aim is to enable the people of God to live lives that build up the body of Christ and convey to the world the good news of his saving love.
- Christian Doctrine
Christian doctrine explores and explains the coherence of the Christian faith: the themes that hold it together, the beliefs that give it harmony and shape, the teachings that give it unity and consistency.
It arises out of our response to the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ, directed at all points by Scripture, and attuned to the Church’s wisdom through the ages.
Doctrine matters for ministry, because without knowing the fundamental themes of our faith the Church is liable to be 'tossed to and fro' by every new set of ideas on offer, and lose sight of Christ.
The study of doctrine affects every dimension of our Christian life:
- Our prayer and worship
As our understanding of God deepens, so too the ways in which we approach and address God are shaped and transformed.
- Our relationships with each other
Our beliefs about the nature of human beings and their role in God’s world determines how we care for and respond to each other, both within and beyond the Church.
- Our reading of Scripture
Just as we return again and again to the Bible to formulate doctrine, so we need doctrine to help us interpret the Bible and discern its truth aright, to discern its main 'plotlines', its frameworks of belief.
- Our preaching and teaching
As we learn the deep truths of Jesus, we are in turn called to proclaim these to others in preaching and in our witness as a whole church.
Doctrine at Ridley is thus deeply practical as well as rigorously intellectual; it is aimed to help us 'grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ'.
- Our prayer and worship
Christian ethics is a way of thinking about human character and conduct, in the light of what we know about God's character and conduct – revealed above all in Jesus Christ.
As we are transformed through Christ-centred fellowship, teaching, worship and prayer, so change finds its expression in the way we live and work.
At Ridley we believe Ethics is a core component in training the men and women who will serve in the Church. It is relevant to all areas of our ministry as Christian leaders:
- shaping our own behaviour and lifestyle
- strengthening our preaching and teaching
- enabling us to help people to be faithful disciples
- equipping us to more confidently help people in pastoral crises
- preparing us to speak out intelligently and courageously on public issues
- helping us to better explain and defend our faith (Christian apologetics)
Studying Ethics at Ridley involves drawing on the Bible, Christian tradition, careful reasoning and our past and present experience. Ethics covers the whole of life. It is both theoretical and practical, straightforward and complex, deeply theological and potentially life-transforming.
- Practical Theology
At its core, Practical Theology emerges through a process of listening and responding. Practical Theology explores how faith is worked out in the everyday lives of real people, and what these theologies on the ground mean for ministry and mission. It actively engages with tradition, experience, scripture and other disciplines - asking how this knowledge can enrich the mission of the church.
At Ridley we believe that all theology should be practical, and so our priority is to train future church leaders who actively and creatively integrate rich theological learning with ministry practice. Training in Practical Theology entails:
- Reflective Practice – engaging in theological reflection as a key aspect of stepping into professional Christian leadership
- Spiritual attentiveness – abiding in Christ means actively seeking how God is at work in the world around us
- Intentional Integration – classroom learning is put into dialogue with ministry experience, creating a tapestry of knowledge for ministry
- Theology in Action – developing skills that enable ministry to be responsive to change, flexible and creative in multiple contexts
Practical Theology equips people to proclaim the gospel afresh in each new situation, envisioning and equipping leaders for the continued telling of the gospel story.
- Mission and Homiletics
Mission and Homiletics
Teaching at Ridley is designed to help students to engage missionally with our contemporary culture by:
- exploring the relationship between Christianity and its social and cultural context in the West;
- paying particular attention to the trends that have helped to shape people's thinking in the 21st century as well as had a significant impact on the church's life and witness;
- equipping students with relevant contemporary skills for missional engagement;
- working out an appropriate response to questions about faith.
- Christian History and Spirituality
Christian History and Spirituality
Understanding our past is important so that we can understand our present and our future.
At Ridley Hall you will have the opportunity to study aspects of the history of the Christian Church, both in terms of Christian belief and how this has developed over time and how this has been expressed in the life and practice of the community of faith.
For those training for ordained ministry, the Anglican story – heritage and history – is part of the Emmaus Teaching Programme which ordinands on all pathways participate in.
Alongside lectures in Christian Spirituality for all ordinands, those wanting to explore more deeply our spiritual traditions can study this subject through a Common Awards module.